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A win that Pakistan needed. A match the Champions Trophy needed. A game that only summarises Pakistan campaign so far in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. A stunning bowling performance to bowl out Sri Lanka for 236 at Cardiff and then making batting look easy. But actually they never got going. After suffering a middle order collapse which saw them lose five wickets for 45 runs, Pakistan overcame all hurdles to beat Sri Lanka by three wickets and book a spot in the semi-final.
Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Amir stitched together an unbeaten 75-run stand for the eighth wicket as Pakistan chased down the target in 44.5 overs and reach the semi-finals where they face England at Cardiff on Wednesday.
Pakistan made two comebacks in the game, both stunning. First the stunning display of pace bowling saw them bowl out Sri Lanka for 236 after they had got a decent platform to launch the attack. The second, which should not have happened, was when Sarfraz and Amir provided the calm approach which was missing in the chase.
Pakistan began the chase with an aggressive approach as Fakhar Zaman, playing only his second one-day international, came out and started unleashing. Pakistan did not run away with the game but were 74 for no loss after 11 overs. Zaman never looked to curb down his aggression and had to pay the price for that. Nuwan Pradeep bowled a well directed bouncer and Zaman pulled without any control. He managed to find the fielder at fine-leg.
Pakistan, just when it looked like they will unleash and make this chase look easy, lost the way. Babar Azam became Pradeep’s second victim as he offered an easy catch to mid-wicket.
Mohammed Hafeez then got a leading edge and was caught at mid-on off Thisara Perera. Suddenly, Sri Lanka were back in it. Suranga Lakmal got one to bounce a bit extra and Azhar Ali edged it to the third slip. Sri Lanka were all over Pakistan.
From 92 for 1, Pakistan collapsed to 137 for 6. Lasith Malinga had Shoaib Malik caught behind down the leg side before Imad Wasim became Pradeep’s third victim.
Debutant Fahim Ashraf played a sensible knock of 28 runs off 43 balls before his innings ended in an unfortunate way. Sarfraz played it straight back and Angelo Mathews got a hand on the ball in his follow-through. Fahim was backing up and could not make it back to his ground as the ball hit the stumps.
Sarfraz and Amir then brought the calm and Sri Lanka let go off the match from an easy position. Amir joined Sarfraz with Pakistan needing 75 more runs with three wickets in hand. Sri Lanka were the favourite. But dropped catches and erratic fielding which resulted in overthrows saw them lose the grip of the match.
Perera put down a simple catch of Sarfraz at mid-on and later substitute fielder Seekkuge Prasanna dropped him again in the 41st over. Lasith Malinga was the bowler on both occasions. Sri Lanka kept making errors in the field and Pakistan kept finding their way back into the game.
In the end, Sarfraz hit Malinga towards third-man to seal the game. If this was Malinga’s last ICC tournament, then Sri Lanka did not give him the farewell he deserved.
Pakistan team was completely opposite while bowling. Sri Lanka would not have thought that despite in the advantage for majority of the innings, they were bowled out for 236. It was mainly because of Junaid Khan and Amir. From 161 for 3, Sri Lanka collapsed to 167/7, thanks to a four-over burst from the two pacers.
It was solid display of some sensational pace bowling from the pacers. Junaid, who dropped for the first game against India, bowled his heart out and with Amir changed the game.
Junaid bowled the delivery of the match as he pitched one up to Dhananjaya de Silva which seamed away just enough to take the outside edge of the bat. Before this, Amir had dismissed Mathews to end a threatening partnership between Niroshan Dickwella and Mathews.
Mathews wicket denied Sri Lanka the platform to launch the final flurry. Dickwella was caught behind for 73 and then hard-hitting Perera was caught in the slips as Sri Lanka failed to play out the complete 50 overs.